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An independent election Debate Commission: fresh ideas for accountability.

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An Independent Election Debate Commission: Fresh Ideas For Accountability Media Statement - 16th October 2007

In a bid to restore fairness into the debate process, Federal Labor today called on the Liberal Party to agree to an independent Debate Commission to determine the rules and practices for future debates. Democracy works best when debates are robust and fair - and not determined by one person.

Federal Labor today accused Prime Minister Howard of trying to engineer the election debate process so that there is just one campaign debate. Make no mistake, he wants a single debate and to have it held well before his policies are released.

In addition, Mr Howard has refused to allow a gauge of the opinion of voters - the worm - to be used. The worm is an immediate monitor of voters’ reactions.

Federal Labor has called for an independent election Debate Commission, the composition of which would be determined by the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

It will be a true referee - making decisions and overseeing proceedings without fear or favour. The Debate Commission will organise debates during the federal election campaign, giving consideration to:

z Reaching as many Australians as possible, including through internet

broadcast; z Covering the issues of greatest concern to Australians; and

z Encouraging community participation.

Instead, Mr Howard is dictating the terms of the debate to suit his political interests. That is not right.

Unfortunately, when you have been in office for 11 years, you get used to getting things your own way. Prime Minister John Howard must realise that this is a democracy and people should get a say.

Any fair and honest government - and any worthy alternative government - would be happy to have rigorous scrutiny applied to them in a series of pre-election debates.

Penny Wong

Authorised by Tim Gartrell, 161 London Circuit, Canberra City, ACT 2600

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